The Cistercian Order had a large presence in medieval Yorkshire, founding famous communities like Fountains Abbey and Kirkstall Abbey. Roche Abbey is one of their lesser known houses. Less information greets visitors to the site in comparison to her larger siblings. However, Roche Abbey offers a chance for quiet reflection in beautiful surroundings.
Roche was founded in 1147, when the monks chose a spot on the north bank of a small stream for their new abbey. The walls of the church still stand to their full height, and give an indication of the magnificent Gothic architecture that would have covered the whole site. Close to the church were the cloisters and dormitories, the outlines of which are easily traceable through the low walls. A small bridge crosses the stream, on the other bank of which are the remains of the abbot’s quarters and the infirmary. Latrine waste was flushed by the stream, which was partially dammed upstream to create regular, fast-flowing water.
Along with other monastic houses, Roche Abbey suffered greatly under Henry VIII. The abbey survived the first wave of closures, only to voluntarily surrender to the king in 1538. Doing so allowed the monks to receive a pension, but the abbey buildings were destroyed to ensure that the community could not reform. A contemporary account records that “all things of value were spoiled, plucked away or utterly defaced”. The ruins that remain are an evocative reminder of the Dissolution and South Yorkshire’s monastic past.
Don’t miss the piscina and credence table carved in the wall near the church, used to wash and store communion vessels during the Mass.
Roche Abbey, nr Maltby, Yorkshire S66 8NW
tel: 01709 812739